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Conservative Columnist George Will Thinks It's Time For GOP Reboot

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Our next guest argues that events of the past week show, again, why President Trump must be removed from office - but not just him, says conservative columnist George Will. He writes this in his column for The Washington Post this week - quote, "we are the sum of our choices. Congressional Republicans have made theirs for more than 1,200 days. We cannot know all the measures necessary to restore the nation's health and international standing, but we know the first step. Senate Republicans must be routed," end quote. Here's my conversation with George Will.

GEORGE WILL: As I was writing that and as it was being put in print for Tuesday's Washington Post paper and others around the country, the president was doing his battle of Lafayette Square with the flash-bang grenades and the tear gas and all the rest so that he could have his photo-op in front of St. John's Church, proving the point of the column that there is no such thing as rock bottom.

MARTIN: You in this piece argue that all the Senate Republicans should be routed, that they should lose their jobs. Why?

WILL: Because the Republican Party, which was founded in 1854, has never been more united. Ninety percent of self-described Republicans support President Trump. I do not believe that Ronald Reagan ever achieved that degree of homogeneity in the Republican Party. So the Republican Party today is a Trump party. For that reason, the party has been, A, impotent to act as a restraint on the president and, B, thoroughly complicit in his behavior. For that reason, the party itself has to be judged, as well as the president that it nominated and helped reach the White House.

MARTIN: Are you surprised by that? I mean, did you think in the beginning when President Trump took office that congressional Republicans would be a check on him and his potential overreach?

WILL: I didn't expect much. I did not quite expect that they would be quite this abject in responding to their fear. The funny thing is their behavior is entirely explained by fear. They are terrified of their voters. They are terrified of the Republican base, which is more solidly behind this president than it ever has been behind any other Republican president. Happily, they're such soft wax, they'll change again as soon as the cause of their fear is gone, which I expect him to be next January 20 at noon.

MARTIN: But haven't members of Congress always tried to cling to power? For many of them, that is the motivation that, unfortunately, governs so much of their own behavior. Is there something exceptional happening about this president and these particular members?

WILL: First, I don't think there's a dime's worth of difference between Democrats and Republicans in terms of their first priority being continuation in office. It's an attribute of a career political class. What's different now is that they think they can lose their office by making one false step. They have in mind former Senator Flake of Arizona and former Senator Corker of Tennessee and former Congressman Sanford of South Carolina. All three got crosswise with the president. The president gave them an unhappy tweet, and they're now out of public life.

MARTIN: You mentioned earlier in our conversation that you are convinced that come January, Inauguration Day, it will not be Donald Trump giving that inauguration address. What convinces you that he's not going to win?

WILL: Every poll this year has shown Mr. Trump losing to Mr. Biden. Mr. Biden is defeating him in the crucial swing states. I expect Biden to carry Arizona, for example, which has gone Democratic once since 1948, and that was Clinton in 1996. I just think the evidence is out there. It's Biden's to lose. And if he stays in his basement, he won't lose it.

MARTIN: What do you mean if he stays in his basement, he won't lose it?

WILL: I think he's one of the beneficiaries of the great lockdown. He leaves the national stage to the president, and the president is using it in a way very injurious to himself.

MARTIN: George Will, we appreciate your time. Thank you.

WILL: Glad to be with you. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.